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IGCSE History Exams

PAPER 2 PRESCRIBED TOPIC FROM CORE CONTENT
Click here to see the topics for your exam year

Paper 2 is the most difficult paper to prepare for because it changes so much from year to year. These changes can take many forms and may affect:

  • Type of questions

  • Wording of the questions

  • Number of sources and number of questions

  • Mark scheme

On the other hand, the skills you need to answer the questions donít change, so part of your exam preparation should be to familiarise yourself with the range of questions that are asked, and not to be put off by the unexpected!

GENERAL SOURCEWORK SKILLS

Almost every question in Paper 2 tests the following general sourcework skills

  • Comprehension

  • Interpretation

  • Evaluation

  • Contextual knowledge

Loads of people lose precious marks each year because they canít work out what the question is asking them to do, and consequently they donít know which specific skill they need to use in order to answer the question well. On the other hand, life becomes very much easier when you know what the examiner wants you to do, and you can often work out what skill the question is testing simply by the way it is worded.

INFERENCE QUESTIONS

  • Why do you think this poster was published (eg in America in 1971)?

  • What can you learn about (eg the events of 1968 in Czechoslovakia) from this source?

  • What is the message of this (eg cartoon)?

Top tip: Use short, PRECISE quotations from the sources to support your 'own words' explanation of what the source is saying.

RELIABILITY QUESTIONS

  • Do these two sources prove that (eg the Tet Offensive was a success for the Viet Cong)?

  • Are you surprised by this source? 

  • How far does Source C prove that Source B is more reliable than Source A ĎThese two sources prove that it was wrong (eg for Britain and France to object to Anschluss).í 

  • Is one of these sources more reliable than the other as evidence about (eg the effectiveness of the League)?

  • How can you explain the different reactions of Sources I, J and K (eg to the massacre at My Lai)?

Top tip: Reliability requires you to consider both the PROVENANCE (who? when? where?=WHY?) and the CONTENT (fact/opinion, contradiction/corroboration, source type, language and tone etc.)

USEFULNESS QUESTIONS

  • Which source is the more useful in helping you to understand (eg the nature of the war in Vietnam)?

  • How useful is this cartoon to an historian studying (eg the League of Nations)?

Top tip: Usefulness requires you to consider the 3 'R's - Is the source RELEVANT?, REVEALING? and RELIABLE?. An unreliable source can still be useful. Think hard about why a particular source may be of use to an historian. A rare, unusual or special type of source can be particularly useful.

SIMILARITY AND DIFFERENCE (compare and contrast) QUESTIONS

  • How far do these two sources agree (eg about Johnsonís conduct of the Vietnam War)?

  • Do these two sources show similar opinions about (eg American policy in Vietnam)?

  • How different are the messages of these two (eg cartoons)?

  • How far do these two sources differ?

  • How similar are the messages of these (eg cartoons)?

Top tip: All sources say similar things to some extent. Always try to identify similarities and differences. Always reach a conclusion that ATBQ ie that sources are either more similar/different than each other.

AND FINALLY, THE LAST QUESTION

This is the only question that does not change, so itís the one you can prepare for best of all. The good news is, itís also worth the most marks! Typically, you will be given a statement and asked to make a comment about it. For example, How far do these sources show that Britain and France were to blame for the Anschluss? Explain your answer.

Firstly, work out which sources support the statement and which ones donít. Secondly, plan to write a balanced answer which clearly addresses both sides of the question. Next, simply evaluate the sources and back up your opinions using contextual knowledge. Finally, remember to answer the question at the end! In this case, for example, you could say that Britain and France were not to blame, partly to blame, mostly to blame, or totally to blame for the Anschluss.

Sources which support the statement

Sources which donít support the statement

Notes about context

G, H, I, J

A, B, C, D, E, F

Anschluss banned by Treaty of Versailles

 The basic rule for this question is that you must always make specific reference to the sources in your answer. That means saying things like ĎSource A supports the statement because Öí and ĎI can trust Source B because Öí Use your contextual knowledge to back up your opinions about the sources and also to fill in the gaps in the story: for instance, the sources donít mention that Britain and France led the League of Nations, which in turn was responsible for upholding the terms of the Treaty of Versailles Ė and which had forbidden the Anschluss in the first place! 

Top tip - There are two bonus marks available in this last question for assessing or reassessing the RELIABILITY of some of the sources you are considering! Every year more students lose marks on this part of the paper than any other.

See some Paper 2 examples

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